Dear IOP Residents,
We have had an extremely busy, unique and challenging year to date. City Council has had a full plate, and new items continue to be added to the to-do list each day.
While drainage, docks and our public safety building were at the top of our minds, life has a way of throwing curve balls. We had nearly completed finalizing our budget for fiscal year 2021 when the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic hit us in early March.
As a result of the pandemic, the world as we know it has changed.
Tourism remains a major source of revenue for the city and the state.
One out of every 10 jobs in South Carolina is tied to tourism. When COVID-19 hit, the governor issued a series of executive orders for the state of South Carolina, which we closely monitored. On March 16, we issued our first state of emergency proclamation. As a result of the executive orders, we have issued 24 updates related to our COVID-19 response. Because of the governor’s orders, we were forced to cancel all short-term rentals until May 13. We are still under orders to limit groups to three or fewer unless they include members of the same family. To say this has been challenging falls short.
Our Police Department personnel are still patrolling the beaches. We are in the process of safely re-opening our buildings. However, when the opening of public beach accesses was mandated by the governor, we experienced a greater than normal influx of visitors. Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties have been growing at unbelievable rates. There are only three public beaches, however, and we currently have no plans to add any new beaches to the region.
Hence, we have felt the impact of everyone finally being allowed out after the governor’s stay-at home mandate was lifted.
We have become experts in Zoom Council and committee meetings. This was a subject we knew nothing about before March. We held at least 13 such meetings because we were not allowed to have groups of 10 or more in our buildings. I am glad to say our staff has perfected the art of the Zoom meeting, all of which are aired live on YouTube.
This has made it easier for people to attend public meetings, with concurrent viewer numbers sometimes reaching into the low 600s. We have never had such turnouts for meetings before. If you are interested, you can go to our YouTube channel and watch every City Council and committee meeting since we have started.
Additionally, we have maintained a rolling reverse chronology of events under “latest news” at the top of the page on our website at www.iop.net.
Our Fire Department’s new 95-foot ladder track has been delivered, and personnel have all been trained.
It is a beautiful truck. Please stop by Station 1 to see it. Our 75-foot ladder truck is being completely rebuilt, which will save the city about $600,000, about half the cost of a new truck. The rebuild is due to be completed by the end of the summer.
Station 1 was built in 2008 at a cost of $6.5 million.
Unfortunately, we are having to basically rebuild it for around $6.2 million. It was poorly built at the height of the recession, and we got what we paid for. This time, we hired an independent
third party to oversee the construction. I’m glad to say, the rebuild is currently on budget and ahead of schedule. Both our police and fire departments are working out of trailers next to the station. We appreciate their patience in having to work in such conditions.
Recent unbridled growth across the region has led to both parking and traffic issues for us. Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon has been of tremendous help, as has Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey. The county sent us deputies to help control traffic and loaned us extra ATVs.
They even stationed an EMS unit out here for Memorial Day Weekend and loaned us portable messaging boards.
To address the parking and traffic issues, Council held several special meetings to increase the parking rates and double the parking fines. Parking rates went from $10 to $15 a day on weekends and holidays. They will remain $10 on weekdays. We also increased the hourly parking rates from $2 to $2.50 per hour along the commercial section of Ocean Boulevard between 10th and 14th avenues. Parking fines were increased from $50 to $100 for those who park in residential areas or double parallel park along Palm Boulevard. We are moving forward with implementing paid parking for the summer of 2021. It is way past time for everyone to help pay for police, fire, rescue and sanitation. I only wish we had done it sooner.
We are working on the final stages of our budget for fiscal year 2021. In it, you will see the drainage outfall improvements costing somewhere between $3.1 million and $3.2 million. This includes a slight increase to improve our multipurpose path along Waterway Boulevard. We recently received our OCRM permit to rebuild our marina docks as well, which will total around $3 million. We will be seeking bids this summer, with hopes of starting in the fall. Lastly, the marina restaurant is still in negotiations. We are behind because we were unable to have regular committee meetings for months, but we are moving forward.
I’d like to say thank you to everyone who applied for the two open positions on the Planning Commission. We had around 15 great candidates and selected Marty Brown and Scott Pierce to serve. It is wonderful to have a community that is this involved.
In closing, I want to thank all our city family members for the jobs they did under the worst of conditions. Our police, fire and sanitation and City Hall staff remained on duty. It is times like this that make me proud to call the City of Isle of Palms home. It reminds me of when we all came together to be there for one another after Hurricane Hugo.
Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that the pandemic is over – it’s not. In fact, infection rates are spiking again. Because of this danger to public health, we have canceled all our city events, including the Fourth of July fireworks display. I am pleased to say Council voted unanimously to give the $35,000 planned for the fireworks back to our city employees as a way of saying thank you for working under hazardous conditions. I know it is not enough, but at least it’s a baby step in the right direction.
Don’t forget to wear face masks when going into public stores, and wash your hands constantly. Follow CDC guidelines on social distancing. Stay home when you are sick. Lastly, pay attention to SCDHEC’s advisories.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you. These have certainly been trying times. However, as mentioned before, a community shows its best when things are at their worst.
Be neighborly and be safe,
Mayor, Isle of Palms